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Coping with my biggest failure, rejection

October 21, 2020

I had the opportunity to attend the CEOx1Day program as a semi-finalist, hoping to make it as a finalist and have the privilege of shadowing one of Toronto’s top CEOs. Unfortunately, I was not selected as a finalist. But I still experienced the four-stage process of submitting an application, completing a Hogan’s Leadership Assessment, phone interview and finally, the semi-finalist day itself. The day consisted of reviewing the leadership assessment, running through nine rapid speed interviews, tackling a business case in 35 minutes and presenting a solution to the problem, questioning a panel of upper management at various companies and finally, networking with the staff of Odgers Berndtson who were responsible for the program. Here are my takeaways from the day despite my failure: 

Avoid rambling


After being rejected as a semi-finalist, I tried to analyze possible reasons why this could’ve been the case as I thought I did the best that I could do. In my opinion, I found myself rambling too much in the speed interviews. I found oftentimes I started answering one question and ended up speaking on a totally different point. This is one thing which I feel employers look at in deciding between applicants. I noticed when I have given interviews and kept it short and concise, oftentimes I find myself communicating my points better.

Be authentic

Something that the staff at Odgers Berndtson preached at the beginning of the day was being authentic. I have always tried to be authentic in interviews and life in general and found that it works for me. I am more at ease during interviews if I feel like the things I am saying and doing things I actually mean. Additionally, authenticity resulted in more meaningful conversations. During the networking stage where I got the opportunity to converse with the staff, rather than asking questions that I would think that someone should ask in order to get this position, I asked questions I was genuinely curious about. Such as whether after graduation I should target entry-level jobs unrelated to my field but within the organization or only apply for jobs that I desire. The answer I got was that employers promote within the organization far more now. They emphasized the importance of entering the company that I wish to hold the position for and networking my way up.

There’s POWER in POWER poses


Anytime I have to engage in any sort of public activity, I do a power pose. I try to take up as much space as possible with my body. This gives me the confidence that I need to get through the event and helps alleviate stress. Prior to going inside the office, I engaged in a variety of power poses outside and found this immediately helped me gain confidence in my ability to actually become a finalist.

Be in the moment and appreciate it

Being an overthinker, I calculated the many possibilities that the day could take and the outcome of that day. I thought and internalized the disappointment I would feel had I potentially been rejected and the joy I would feel had I been accepted. I believe this resulted in additional stress that was not necessary for the moment. Looking back on it now, I wish I had enjoyed and appreciated the fact that I had made it this far in such a competitive program. I feel it is important to appreciate any opportunity regardless of the outcome as it would have made me a happier person and not have remorse over being rejected.

Although I did not make it as a finalist, I got to experience something that was totally unique relative to my current opportunities. I learned a lot throughout the day and hope to persevere through this by analyzing my weaknesses and turning them into strengths.


By Hishaam Shah